Fifteen kids lounged on the deck of the Captain Conner one summer day in Astoria. As the captain I was in the wheelhouse, leaving their educational trip up to my very competent interpretative crew. One boy, probably about 10 years old, was sitting just in front of me on the bow and kept smashing something on the deck. The Captain Conner is a pretty sturdy boat and he wasn’t likely to hurt it with his hands but I became curious. When Stephanie, my first mate, came into the wheelhouse I had her take the wheel for a while so I could go visit with this young man. I sat beside him and asked him how he liked the boat.
“It’s OK I guess”, he mumbled towards his shoes. Just then one of the beach flies that are prevalent in that part of the river mouth landed near him on the toe rail. Wham. The kid dispatched the fly and swept the body off onto the deck. I looked at the shriveled little body and back at the boy. “Why did you kill that? I asked. “Cause it bugged me”, he retorted and he lifted his hand to smash another.
I looked out to the water around us. It was a warm day, the view reminding me of a good camera’s focus with puffy clouds decorating the tops of dark Douglas firs. I wondered out loud to the boy about the beach flies. According to an article I once read about them, we don’t know what they do yet. Some beaches have flies at times that make the beached inhabitable to humans. They must be food for something or eat something else that would overrun the beaches. Likely there is a place for them in the scheme of beaches. I would bet scientists don’t know enough about them yet. The boy has no answers for my ramblings. When I stop, he looks up at me with a speculative squint. As we sit silently, he carries out his carnage but more slowly with more selection. Now he only gets the ones who land in a certain spot. Soon he is distracted by a sea lion on a nearby buoy. As the kids gather for another lecture, I get up and go back to work.
As I navigate through the channel, I realize I don’t know enough to judge him. I don’t know if what I said to him will make a difference or if he’ll think of me as just another adult who doesn’t get it. Perhaps he was smashing live things because he gets smashed psychologically by the world everyday. Perhaps if he smashes enough of these flies he will grow up and not smash other animals that bug him, like coyotes or cougars, bears or wolves. Animals we already know benefit the earth. Perhaps.
Causes Linda Hunter Supports